Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Mary Mary quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
The next blog that I write will be named “The Accidental Gardener.”  Every spring, with great anticipation and fervor, we head to North Haven Gardens to select vegetables and herbs to plant in our garden.  And that’s pretty much where the green thumb ends.  If it does not grow without basic watering and an occasional spray of MiracleGro, then that plant is not for us.  This season we bought some squash plants (3 of everything, as if the kids really remember which plant is theirs).  The squash plant grew out of control – over the garden wall, up the fence, onto the tree.  There were tons of blooms and 1 squash in sight.  One afternoon I decided it was time to pull up all of these vines.  As I ventured between the fence and the garage, the vine was really heavy.  The squash that happily grew unattended was almost the size of a 7 year olds head!

If you have better luck with gardening, or buy product in a grocery store, then whip up your bounty into a gazpacho (a summertime, tomato-cucumber, drinkable salsa – as close to a direct quote by David as I can remember).

TBM reader and good friend, Kathryn, shared her favorite recipe as did my Uncle Willy.  Try one – try both!

Kathryn’s Gazpacho
1.      1 hothouse cucumber, halved and seeded, but not peeled
2.      1-2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
3.      4 plum tomatoes
4.      ¼ red onion
5.      3 garlic cloves, minced
6.      24 ounces tomato juice (3 cups)
7.      1/4 C white wine vinegar
8.      1/4 C good olive oil
9.      1/2 T kosher salt
10.  1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess!

After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.  Garnish with basil or cilantro, if you choose.

Willy’s Gazpacho
1.      1 lb fresh peeled tomatoes (a one pound can of peeled whole tomatoes can be substituted)
2.      2 large cloves garlic
3.      1 t salt
4.      Dash of cayenne pepper
5.      1 t sugar
6.      1 cucumber
7.      ½ red or green bell pepper
8.      3 T olive oil
9.      2 T tablespoons red wine vinegar
10.  2– 4 C chicken broth (depending on desired consistency – always start with a lessor amount as you can always add more)
11.  2 slices pumpernickel bread

Place all ingredients into a blender or Cuisinart, incorporating everything together (will probably need to do this in 2 or 3 batches).

Chill thoroughly.  Serve in small individual bowls or coffee mugs topped with one or more of chopped scallions, green peppers, and cucumbers.  If desired, prepare (or purchase) garlic croutons crisped in the oven.

Note: To peel fresh tomatoes, immerse tomatoes in boiling water.  After 30 – 45 seconds (yes, that’s seconds) remove tomatoes and place in ice water.  After thoroughly chilled, lift a piece of skin from around the stemmed end (with either a paring knife or your fingernail) and peel away!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Rocky Road Brownies

Welcome your favorite students home from their first day of school with these kid-favorite-topping-ed brownies.  Or wait until they return from school and make these together.  Either way, these brownies are a great way to end the day (and to send in lunchboxes the following day).

Best wishes for a great school year and for this brownie being the only rocky road you encounter!

Rocky Road Brownies
1.      2 c all-purpose flour
2.      ½ c unsweetened cocoa powder
3.      1 t baking powder
4.      1 t table salt
5.      2 sticks (16 T) unsalted butter
6.      1 ¾ c granulated sugar
7.      2 c semisweet chocolate chips, divided
8.      3 eggs
9.      2 t vanilla extract
10.  ¼ c heavy cream
11.  3 oz milk chocolate, finely chopped or chips
12.  1 ½ c mini marshmallows
13.  ½ c chopped dry-roasted peanuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350.  Coat a 9x13 inch baking pan with non-stick spray.

Whisk together ingredients #1-4.  Melt butter and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until bubbles form around edge of pan; remove from heat.  Stir in 1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips until melted.  Then stir this chocolate mixture into flour mixture until combined (at this point, I used a stand mixer because it’s pretty thick).  Add eggs and vanilla.  Mix until combined.  Using a spatula, gently fold in remaining semi-sweet chocolate chips. 

Spread into prepared pan.  Bake brownies for 30 minutes or until edges are set and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.

For the topping, heat cream until it starts to boil.  Pour over chopped milk chocolate in a bowl and cover for 5 minutes.  Stir until ganache is smooth.

Sprinkle marshmallows and peanuts (if using) over brownies.  Briefly return brownies to oven for 2-3 minutes to soften marshmallows.  Drizzle ganache over topping and let cool before serving.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

MIB: Slime

Now I know why I would never make a good elementary school teacher.  I can’t handle the mess (which is funny if you have ever seen my office.   However, it is not dirty mess, it is clutter mess.  Do you like how I justify “mess” through different definitions?)  I always thought that I would teach K or 1st because two of my most favorite teachers, Mrs. Newton and Mrs. Reyelts, were that impactful.  Like many kids, I did some skills testing before college to identify what career would suit me best and the tests indicated that I should not go into elementary education.  “You won’t be able to relate to the young students” was the feedback.  Little did I know that it meant on a tactile vs. intellectual level.  I was crushed and went into marketing instead. 

This past weekend we visited the Children’s Museum in Houston.  It is excellent!  We only experienced about half the museum and will have to go back.  Everything involves touching and doing and experimenting.  One of the favorite activities was playing with the slime and flubber so, of course, we had to try it at home.  We made edible slime, Jello jigglers, and completely inedible slime like at the museum.

I tried my best to “let it go” with the knowledge that paper towels and 409 were not far behind.

With the start of school around the corner, this completes the MIB (Mom, I’m Bored) series.  Have a wonderful school year!!

Jello Jigglers
Jello Jigglers
1.      4 – 3 oz. boxes of Jello gelatin
2.      2 ½ c boiling water
3.      Cookie cutters or plastic knives
4.      Spatula

From the side of the box: add 2 ½ c boiling water to 4 packages (3 oz each) Jello.  Stir 3 minutes until completely dissolved.  Do not add cold water.  Pour into a 13x9 inch pan.  Refrigerate for 3 hours or until firm. 

Dip bottom of pan in warm water about 15 seconds.  Cut gelatin into 1 inch squares or use cookie cutters for shapes. 

Slime (NOT edible)
Slime (NOT edible!)
We tried a number of recipes.  This one seemed to mix and hold up the best. 

1.      4 oz. bottle of Elmer’s Glue-All
2.      1 t Borax, like Mule Team Borax (found in the laundry detergent aisle)

Empty a 4 oz bottle of Elmer's Glue-All into a bowl. Fill the empty glue bottle with warm water and shake. Then pour it in the bowl of glue. Optional: add 1-10 drops of food coloring and with a wooden spoon stir well.

In another bowl, mix 1 teaspoon of 10 Mule Team Borax with 1 cup of warm water. Stir with a wooden spoon until the powder dissolves.

Slowly pour the (colored) glue into the bowl with the borax solution, stirring with a wooden spoon the whole time.  Remove the thick glob that forms and knead the glob with your hands until it feels smooth and dry.  Wearing rubber gloves is optional.

Discard the water left in the bowl.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Watermelon Mint Tea

Bobby, Bobby, Bobby!  I am seeing you everywhere – Saturday mornings, Sunday mornings and nights.  Before you start thinking that I am having an affair, Bobby Flay is on Food Network when I exercise (Barbecue Addiction and Titans at the Table (an interview by Bloomberg’s Betty Liu with fellow chefs Rachael Ray, Mario Batali and Tom Colicchio)) and is a co-judge/mentor on one of our favorite tv shows, The Next Food Network Star (Congratulations Dameris!  Southern cuisine does make the world go ‘round). 

What did my “boyfriend” make on one of his shows the other day?  Watermelon Mint Tea. It is like he knew that this is the wonderful world of watermelon at The Baker’s Mann and gave me a sign.  So I raise a toast to Bobby, his talent and skills – all of your recipes are delicious, this one I can actually make.

1.      8 cups chopped seeded watermelon
2.      7 black tea bags
3.      2 T honey
4.      1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
5.      Fresh mint sprigs, for garnish, optional
6.      Vodka, optional

In a food processor or blender, puree the watermelon batches until smooth, then strain into a pitcher. Cover and refrigerate until very cold.

Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat, add the tea bags and honey and let steep 5 minutes. Add the mint leaves, cover and refrigerate until cold. Discard the mint leaves and add the tea to the watermelon juice. Add vodka if you wish to make this an alcoholic beverage.  Serve over ice in tall glasses.  Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

MIB: Crack Open a Coconut

Ten years ago, Travis entered our lives (ten days overdue, with a full head of hair, a little mini-David).  He captured our hearts and continues to amaze us.  He is kind and strong-willed; reserved and mischievous; focused and funny.  He is a natural big brother, that is, when he is not antagonizing Elizabeth and Andrew. 

3 soft spots at the top make it easier to drain the water
Travis, the inspiration behind the “Mom, I’m Bored” series, saw a coconut in the grocery store and wanted to open one up.  I had no idea how to do it so we bought one anyways.  A few things: 1) coconuts have 3 soft spots where you can puncture and drain the coconut water out and 2) the coconuts at your grocery store may be have been “prepared” for opening with a line already cut partially through the thick skin.

The pre-made cuts look like an equator but help in opening
the coconut with a hammer or a knife (by an adult)
Travis used our crack-open-a-coconut activity as an opportunity to get out a power screwdriver and drilled holes in the soft spots.  We then turned the coconut upside down in a bowl and drained the water.  Next, we wrapped the coconut in a towel, aimed for the middle (where the pre-made cuts were located) and broke it open (the towel keeps the pieces from flying all over the kitchen). 

We tasted the coconut water and the meat.  I will tell you – this is no Almond Joy – but it was a fun adventure. 

Happy 10th Birthday!
Happy Birthday Travis
and many more!!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Watermelon Bites with Blue Cheese and Prosciutto

We picked up Travis from camp yesterday!  It was so great to see him after 3 weeks – to meet his new friends, to watch him do a few of the activities, to see the smiles, and to hear the details about camp (this is Travis so that last comment is all relative).  The euphoria lasted less than 4 hours.  By the time we arrived back in Dallas, the boys did something to hurt Elizabeth’s feelings and “I’m bored” came from T’s mouth.  Laundry has been extra soapy because T accidentally packed his bottle of shampoo upside down with the lid open in his trunk.  Nevertheless, it is nice to be back together and for Travis to have had a great camp experience!

Let’s continue the “wonderful world of watermelon” series with these bite size appetizers that are light, juicy, and flavorful with a combination of sweet, tangy, creamy and a bit of bite from the blue cheese.

PS – can you believe that Nikki Dinki and Stacey Poon-Kinney were released from The Next Food Network Star?  They were our top contenders.  Look at what we know! (David and I did much better selecting winners on The Voice).  The vote is on and the winner is selected next Sunday!

Watermelon Bites
with Blue Cheese and Prosciutto
1.      Watermelon pieces sliced about ½ inch thick
2.      4 oz. Blue cheese crumbles
3.      4 oz. Prosciutto
4.      Balsamic glaze

Slice the watermelon about ½ inch thick.  Then cut into bite size small squares or rounds.  Cut prosciutto into thin strips and roll into a small spiral that fits onto the watermelon bite.  Sprinkle each bite with crumbled blue cheese.  Drizzle some balsamic glaze over each bite. Serve and enjoy immediately.